CLARKE Oduor is delighted to be playing regular football again and transitioning the phenomenal technical skills he honed playing on the streets in Leeds into the professional game.
The 22-year-old, who was born in Kenya but grew up in Yorkshire and came through the Leeds United academy, was in and out of the Reds first team throughout 2020, being used mainly at left-back or left wing-back. He was then an unused substitute for 27 successive games under Valerien Ismael last season, and not involved at all in the play-off matches against Swansea City.
But new head coach Markus Schopp has played Oduor in all six games so far this season – with four starts – mainly on the left of a front three, where he has wowed with his dribbling and skills.
On his technical ability, Oduor told the Chronicle: “It’s something I’ve always had. When I was younger I used to play a lot of street football. I spent a lot of time outside on the street with my mates and my brothers. I still work on it now in training and I enjoy having the ball at my feet.
“I still play on the streets with my little brothers when I’m at home.
“It’s a strength in my game and it helps me to get into good situations but it’s all about having that end product whether that’s a goal for myself or an assist. With time, that will come.
“It definitely helps to watch players like Cauley (Woodrow) when we do finishing drills – how composed he is and how he takes his shots.”
Oduor registered his first assist in professional football in Barnsley’s most recent game, setting up Callum Styles for the opener in a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City.
“It was good to get an assist and I am hoping to improve my goal contributions. With each passing game, I feel more confident. I just want to add a few more goals.”
On being left on the bench for the second half of last season, Oduor told the Chronicle: “It was difficult, of course, but we have a good group of lads and we all stuck together. I just kept going, kept my head straight and waited for my opportunity.”
Oduor prefers playing in the front three than at left-back. He said: “It’s a different position at left-back or left wing-back, everything is more in front of you whereas in the front three you get the ball with your back to goal.
“Pressing was something that was new to me, getting the right triggers and knowing when to press. But being next to Cauley helps because he’s always talking me through games. I am originally a number ten or an attacking midfielder but I am enjoying playing on the left or right. I think my versatility helps. I can slot in anywhere, if the gaffer trusts me, and help the team.”
Oduor is looking forward to playing at Bournemouth tomorrow, whose passing style of play he believes will suit Barnsley. He said: “That could play into our hands a lot more than a direct team would. We can start high up the pitch, pressing and winning the ball – that’s probably when we’re at our best.”
Oduor believes Barnsley could repeat last season’s top six finish. He said: “It’s been a decent start. There are games we should have won but they were not losses so it’s something to build on. There’s a good stretch before the next break so we want to get a lot of points. There’s no reason we can’t be in and around there (the play-offs) again. We have a lot of the same players and the fight is there.”